New York Times And CIA Collusion - 9/11 Implications
The blind quotes, though, are not even the worst of it. The New York Times recently revealed that reporters are not merely working on background, they negotiate after interviews what comments may be used and send them to sources for prepublication approval. The sources routinely edit those quotes before turning them back over to news organisations.
As media ethicist Edward Wasserman so aptly put it, "At this point you're no longer talking about an interview; you're talking about a press release … And what happens is Washington becomes no different from Beijing, in terms of reporting what authorities want reported".
Once again, this turns out not to be some sort of rare practice confined to sleazy blogs. It is a sleazy practice embraced by the most venerable journalism institutions, desperate to feed on the scraps offered by official Washington, no matter how degrading and unscrupulous the transaction. One Washington Post reporter was caught sharing an entire draft of a story about Texas learning standards with university of Texas officials.
The backlash was swift. Embarrassed by the revelation, the Post issued updated policies on quote approval and draft-sharing, absolutely forbidding the practices. Absolutely and unequivocally. Except when the reporter and editor agree it's OK.
"We should not allow sources to change what was said in an original interview," said executive editor Marcus Brauchili in a memo, "although accuracy or the risk of losing an on-the-record quote from a crucial source may sometimes require it. A better and more acceptable alternative is to permit a source to add to a quotation and then explain that sequence to readers."
You tell 'em, Marcus. Take no prisoners.
Meanwhile, the National Journal and Bloomberg news followed the McClatchey Newspapers Washington bureau in instituting a real ban on quote sharing, as articulated by McClatchey bureau chief Jim Asher: "I make this commitment to our readers, and to our citizens: McClatchy journalists will report fairly and independently. We will not make deals with those in power, regardless of party or philosophy."
Yes, they got scooped on the Romney bus blockbuster. All they have now is their independence. And their dignity.